Resting upon his sturdy mount as it dipped its long neck into the creek below, the knight looked around him at the valley ahead. Around him were the six other knights sent with him, and sitting amongst them were the common soldiers. Some, no more than 16, were still children. Barely old enough to be men themselves, and yet they were risking their lives for a king they had never known.
Peculiar was the music of the valley that day, not for an abundance, but for an absence. Both beast and bug were silent that day, the birds did not sing their calls, and the winds did not hymn through the trees. Even the men were quiet, as if an unknown force held their will to speak. The sole sound which pierced through the mundane silence, was that of the creek. Gingerly lapping against the soil, it was as a blind bear were timidly, gently, pawing a hare. Unaware of its own capacity to utterly desolate it of its own agency, if it so chose.
Fixating upon this single escape from his silent, monotonous surroundings, the knight was both startled, and dumbfounded, when a deep murmur was heard. Coming neither from man nor beast, it grew out from the hills around them, and the earth beneath them.
As this deep, grim sound grew in volume, the calm waters of the creek began to splash is if boiling. The men and their horses, their weapons and their armor, all shook as if in a baby’s rattle.
Lasting only a mere 30 seconds, the tremors ceased, only a brief moment before a riptide channelled through the ground. Coming from a distant ridgeline, it hurled the ground, and all its occupants, up into the air like ragdolls as it passed beneath.
It was from this very ridgeline that the thunder emanated from. Not diminishing in the slightest, it appeared to be shaking the hills themselves, down to their earthen bones. Landslides of dirt and trees, villages and boulders, all were collapsing to the valley below. At the Northern end of the ridgeline, just below the twin peaks, appeared two great caverns, born unto the sunlight from the ceaseless quakes.
Suddenly, the tremors ceased, and the knights and the soldiers regained their bearing, hesitant to stand, for fear of the quakes resuming. Looking around them, they saw desolation. No tree stood whole, the river now flowed as fractured tributaries spreading out like the tendrils of a crushed spider. Some of the men feared their broken bones, as others inspected their splintered spears. But as the knight viewed his new surroundings, one thing stood out from the surrounding carnage. The ridgeline which seemed as the source of the disaster, did not appear destroyed. Though the valley beneath it was filled with rubble the hills, the ridges themselves seemed fine, seemed as though they had taken shape.
But before he could comprehend what his eyes were witnessing, it moved. The entire ridge, miles in length, lifted up. Breaking away from the valley floor which with it had been cemented to, it rose hundreds of feet into the air.
Now, its shape was clear. Standing upon four legs, each as wide as the richest castles, was a dragon of nightmarish proportions. Were it not for the centuries, perhaps millennia, of dirt caked into its hide, it would appear darker than one’s eyes can fathom. Its hide was scaled with massive spikes, once thought to have been hills of grass and trees, now showed their true, evil nature.
With its ancient bones creaking with thunder, it slowly turned its head in direction of the knights, who were standing frozen in fear, at least four miles distant. Smoke billowing from its cavernous nostrils, the sunlight lost against its midnight horns, it began to open its eyes